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Stretching: The Next Fitness Craze

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An old exercise is new again. Although high intensity workouts like CrossFit have become increasingly popular, stretching, a traditional exercise, is suddenly the latest fitness craze. There are two popular methods of stretching: dynamic stretching and traditional stretching.

Dynamic stretching, in which you move through a range of motion, provides a full body warm-up, increases your flexibility, activates your stability and core muscles, and helps you improve your range of motion. Traditional stretching involves holding a position for 20-60 seconds and can increase your flexibility, range of motion and help prevent injury.

At the NEBH out-patient physical therapy and sports performance centers, we use both types of stretching as ways to improve range of motion, reduce pain, and improve athletic performance.  Group classes and one-on-one training sessions with a coach or instructor are being offered to teach people how to position and stretch properly. These classes are designed to help people reduce tension, relax taut muscles and increase flexibility. Stretching programs are meant to supplement working out, and anyone can benefit.

Prolonged sitting throughout the day can result in stiff muscles and joints which can put pressure on bones, nerves and muscles, causing tension. Over time, this can cause joint stiffness and pain. Stretching can help to alleviate this pain. For some it may at first be painful to stretch, but over time, your body will get used to the activity, and as your range of motion increases your pain will decrease.  Stretching after your work out is a great way to reduce muscle stiffness, as well soreness

Can’t make it to a stretching program? Here are a few stretching exercises you can try at home:

  • Hamstring stretch: Try sitting on a chair with one leg out straight.  Then slowly lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your leg.
  • Quadriceps stretch:  While standing, use one hand to pull your heel back toward your buttocks you can use the other hand to hold onto the wall for balance.  You should feel the stretch in the front part of your thigh.
  • Piriformis (hip) stretch: While sitting in a chair, cross on leg over the other so that the ankle is resting on the opposite knee.  Then gently press the crossed knee down towards the ground.  You should feel the stretch in the side of your hip.
  • Forward Bending: While standing, bend at the waist trying to touch your toes.  This will target your lower back, and hamstrings.  We have all of our patients with back pain perform this exercise!!
  • Back bends: stand with your hands on your hips and arch yourself backwards. This is great for those who sit for a longtime at work, or at home.
  • Side bends: While standing, reach one arm up over your head and across your body.  This will stretch your latissimus dorsi muscle, your trunk obliques and you iliotibial band on the side of your hip.  Remember to do both sides.

Always talk to your physician before beginning a new exercise routine. 

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